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—for my father, the physicist
A stranger died in my childhood home
before we lived there. We knew this
because a long fluid shadow, a human-shaped stain
marked the wooden floor where he fell.
Our father never spoke of the dead man.
But he told other stories, and whenever he spoke
secret stars would fly from his mouth.
A ruby on Jupiter. Diamonds on Neptune.
Neutrinos. Nebulae. Gluons and galaxies.
We would never learn the dead man’s name,
but astronomy and physics taught us
Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity:
which told us the dead man’s mass
was able to bend space. And with E = mc2
we could be pretty sure, he became the waves.
Children learn to read and cipher in rooms
like this, learn to crisscross the silvered lines
of comets and ghosts, learn how the dust
from exploded stars can be used for polishing.
Old houses are always haunted behind the shiplap.
Our ancestors sing in the quarter-sawn oak.
The particles of our dead dance, always in circles.
They dance through the straight edges of sanded wood.
These are the floors we walk, the bare walls of a house
papered over with poems. The boundaries
are not boundaries. Indelible marks
wherever we fall, we are also the stars, rising.